Using activities and time together to help your children express feelings is very important. Doing a fun activity together or just being in the car on a day trip can provide a safe way to talk about what is happening and how it is affecting everyone in the family.
Think of things to do together that do not require much energy, such as reading a favorite story or watching a favorite show.
Have clay and other creative materials to use to work out some frustrations that you and the children share.
Plan for laughter; read the comics together, get a joke book from the library. Shel Silverstein’s book, A Light in the Attic, is one example. Laughter is good medicine for everyone.
Make a favorite meal together; the time planning the meal to order out or to make together can be just as fun as eating it.
Get together with other parents and families who are coping with an illness. Have your children meet other “survivors” of the illness.
Make time to go on a day trip; visit the beach, go to a museum or anything you like to do together.
Create strong boxes. You can use a pencil box, purchased box, gift box or shoebox. Decorate the outside of the by drawing or placing pictures of things that remind you of your strengths. Talk about how being reminded of our strengths can help us with coping. After the outside of the box is done, the inside of the box is a place to draw or write words that express your worries or fears.
Talk about the inside and outside of your boxes. For the outside, relate what strength you have that can help you to deal with specific stresses. For the inside of the box, talk about feelings, how all feelings are normal and some feelings are hard to have. Placing them in the box helps the feelings to not be so powerful. Let them know they can continue to add fears by writing on a piece of paper and placing it in the box. Encourage them to come to you when they want to talk about feelings or have a strong feeling that bothers them. Adapted from Cancer in the Family: Helping Children cope with a Parent’s Illness